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N. Korea likely to use provocations unless economic aid comes from S. Korea: U.S. expert

Provocations will continue to be a part of North Korea's strategy for dealing with South Korea despite the recent conciliatory mood created between the two sides after they defused a military standoff, a U.S. expert said Monday.

Ken Gause, a senior analyst on Korea at CNA Corp., made the forecast in a just-released paper titled "North Korea's provocations and escalation calculus," saying the dynamics of Pyongyang's decision-making on provocations have not changed dramatically since Kim Jong-un took power.

"Whether North Korea will continue along a brinksmanship strategy, including a missile or nuclear test in the near future, will depend on how the inter-Korean negotiations go," the expert said in comments sent to Yonhap News Agency for additional explanation.

After weeks of heightened military tensions that sparked fears of a major clash, South and North Korea reached a peace pact last week under which they agreed to work together for reconciliation and exchanges, including holding a round of separated family reunions.

Following up on the deal, the two sides agreed to hold Red Cross talks next week to discuss family reunions.

Whether the North will be able to win economic assistance from the South is expected to determine whether the communist regime would resort again to provocations, Gause said.

"If North Korea sees the possibility of economic aid without having to put its nuclear program squarely on the table, it will likely forego provocations. If not, then we are likely in store for more bad behavior," the expert said.

Leader Kim needs economic assistance in order to consolidate his power, Gause said.

"North Korea has used provocations to get the ROK (South Korea) to the negotiating table. North Korea will use provocations in the future to keep the ROK there if it needs to. Kim Jong-un cannot fully consolidate his power in the absence of international aid," he said.

"For him, this is now an existential matter since he only has a short amount of time left to consolidate his power. If he is not able to, regime dynamics may begin to change," he said. "Unlike his father and grandfather, he will not be able to bend the regime to his will."

Responding to the North's aggressive behavior requires a whole-of-government response -- military, diplomatic, legal and international, and relying on military operational plans and threatening military responses alone will do little to prevent the unintended consequences of escalating, he said. (Yonhap)